Last week I was in Pakistan, speaking at an international conference on Town Planning and Urban Management. It was an opportunity to revisit Lahore for the first time in 20 years and to experience the grandeur and vibrancy of this great city, which encapsulates the opportunities and challenges of rapid urbanisation in this part of Asia.
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The ‘urban’ goal remains in the list that the UN general assembly is considering this week. As long as it gets through, then adoption next year should be a formality, unless some country really wants to make an issue about it. As not much information is available about this, and it is an issue that is very relevant for planners and other built environment professionals, I am posting here the current list of 17 proposed goals and also the targets being developed for Goal 11, the ‘urban’ goal. Many thaks to Christine Platt and the Commonwealth Association of Planners for this update and all their hard work to get the goal this far.
The last week here in UK has been dominated by the referendum on Scottish independence. Although the “No” side won by a clear margin (55/45%) the issues behind the referendum have not disappeared, and now there is a political discussion at Westminster about devolution across the UK. Meanwhile, last Wednesday I was speaking in Colwyn Bay at an ESPON on the Road event that focused on small towns in Wales. In my presentation I drew on EU data that shows why the UK now faces a crisis of territorial cohesion.
Today I have been to Nablus and followed the River Jordan down to Jericho. I have spoken to a conference, eaten falafel in the bazaar, talked with the most remarkable mayor I have ever met, and come to better understand the significance of water and land in this arid regions. The more I try, the harder it becomes to untangle the issues that are preventing planning in the West Bank from delivering safe, inclusive, prosperous and sustainable settlements.
I am writing this blog from East Jerusalem. I have been invited over here by the UN-Habitat team based in Ramallah on the Israeli Occupied West Bank of the Jordan. The purpose of the visit is to learn about how planning is practised here, and what might be down to make it a more equitable, fair and transparent process. The visit is linked to a DFID-funded project that is trying to remove the logjam which is preventing Palestinian villagers from developing.
My summer holiday reading has been “Buildings of Empire” by Ashley Jackson. As the title suggests, this is a grand tour around landmark examples of the built environment legacy of the British Empire. Twelve fluently written chapters take us from Dublin Castle to the iconic Raffles Hotel in Singapore, before returning the reader to the Empire Stadium at Wembley.
If you are 30 years old, then 260 million people have moved from rural China into its cities during your life time. This amounts to more than half of the current EU population. 117M moved in the decade between 2000 and 2010. Environmental pollution in many of these cities is still terrible, and for many migrants the housing conditions remain well below acceptable western norms. However, a case can also be made that this has been the most successful mass-migration from the countryside in human history. But now serious questions are being asked, and reform is on the agenda.
“Architecture is for people”. This is how the new Danish Architecture Policy begins. The Danish government sees architecture as defining the country at home and internationally. It is about competitiveness, moving towards sustainability and social cohesion. The new policy depicts architecture as contributing to “the development of the welfare state”, and says that local authorities have a key role to play. “The municipalities set the overall goals and visions for an area’s physical development and implement the realization of the visions in a dialogue with the public and with market players.”
Will the UN adopt a post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal addressing urbanisation and human settlements? The draft for the new goals will be agreed early in June, before going to the UN General Assembly for what is expected to be formal endorsement. Thus this month is crucial, and planners, other construction professions, urban researchers and civic bodies need to be making their voices heard quickly.
I was in Botswana recently. Planning there is going through a significant transformation. New legislation that came into force in April 2014 will see significant devolution of planning powers to 16 District-level authorities. Twelve of these are rural. As planning goes local the challenge will be to deliver a more strategic and sophisticated form of planning, and to ensure that young planners beginning their professional careers in remote parts of the country get the support they will need to deliver the new planning system. RTPI accreditation of the planning programme at University of Botswana will support this significant transition.